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Hawks end two-decade streak with comeback win in San Antonio

Almost 23 years later...

Atlanta Hawks v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks made their way to San Antonio on Friday evening for a battle with the Spurs. The story of the night was Atlanta’s continued streak of losses in San Antonio, with the team not winning in that particular city since 1997. In the end, however, the Hawks snapped that extended skid with a last-second victory, toppling the Spurs by a final score of 121-120.

Things looked promising in the early going for Atlanta as they opened the game with a barrage of three-pointers from Kevin Huerter, Trae Young and John Collins. Young and Collins carried the load through the middle part of the quarter offensively and defensively Cam Reddish was making an impact early.

Reddish was tasked with guarding DeMar DeRozan and did a strong job individually. He also was able to get into passing lanes to generate two early steals to continue building the Hawks’ momentum on that end of the floor.

The Spurs closed the first quarter pretty strong though, thanks to a good stint from Marco Belinelli. The former Hawks wing scored or assisted on the Spurs final three buckets of the quarter to close the Hawks lead to just 29-27 at the end of the first.

Atlanta’s good offensive play continued into the second period. Reddish started to get his offense going with a couple of jumpers, but Young really started cooking to help stretch the lead all the way out to 13 points.

Atlanta’s defense in the second quarter wasn’t all that bad despite the 31 point quarter that San Antonio posted. The final two minutes of the first half really were the most trouble for the Hawks (as they have been routinely this season). The Spurs outscored the Hawks by four in the final two minutes to close the deficit slightly, but thanks to a late three-pointer by Young, the Hawks walked into the locker room with a 67-58 lead at the break.

Vince Carter was also in his bag during the first half and ended up scoring 12 points to help boost the Hawks at halftime thanks to a bevy of difficult shots.

The third quarter was really the Hawks’ un-doing in this game (again, a common theme this season). San Antonio out-scored Atlanta 41-21 in the period and the Hawks had a noticeably different effort level on the defensive end.

Damian Jones played well for a stretch in the third, and threw down a monstrous dunk, but really struggled to rebound the ball and San Antonio took advantage.

When the quarter was over, San Antonio found themselves up 11 points after going into the third down by nine points. It truly was a disastrous period that the Hawks will soon want to forget.

Fortunately, Atlanta did not mail it in from there. The defensive effort really turned back up when Reddish and Huerter re-entered the game and Atlanta took advantage using the three-point line. The Hawks had five makes from deep in the opening nine minutes of the quarter, which helped them whittle down the deficit all the way to just three points.

The final three minutes would basically go on to decide the game. The Spurs struck back quickly with four points in less than a minute to take the lead back to seven. Young returned fire for the Hawks with yet another make from three-point land to make the score 118-114 with two minutes to go.

Atlanta had a chance to cut into the lead even more, but an untimely turnover by Young lead to a fast break lay-in for Patty Mills, making things exceedingly difficult for a Hawks comeback. Young would get fouled going the other way, and was able to hit both of his free throws to cut the lead back to four, but only with a minute remaining.

Next, it was the Spurs turn to make a mistake as LaMarcus Aldridge was charged with an offensive foul for some hand fighting in the post with Collins. The Hawks were able to parlay that mistake into two more points after a Young drive to the rim to narrow the lead to just two points.

Then came the Hawks biggest sequence of the night (and the last two decades). After a missed dunk, the Hawks got the ball back with just 25 seconds remaining in the game down 120-118. Young brought the ball up the floor, found De’Andre Hunter with a behind the back pass who then skipped a pass to a wide open Huerter in the corner for a dagger go-ahead three-pointer that took a 121-120 lead.

Atlanta’s final run culminated in seven points during the final minute and 10 seconds to complete the furious comeback after the terrible third quarter effort that really put them behind the eight ball late. For good measure, the shot by Huerter would go on to be the game winner and breaks the streak of losses in San Antonio that has existed since Dominique Wilkins was a Spur himself.

“That’s a lot of growth out there tonight,” head coach Lloyd Pierce said after the game. “Just the way they competed, the way they got down and came back. It was fully a team effort. We struggled in that third quarter. We brought in a group from the bench. We didn’t get the lead back, but that group settled the game. The entire team, everybody came in and had a huge impact for our win tonight and it was good to see. It was fun.”

Cam Reddish had a career night in one of the best games of his young career, as he posted 22 points, four assists, five rebounds and four steals.

“I’ve said it a lot with Cam. Confidence is not an issue with him,” Pierce said. “When the ball goes in the basket, he’s going to keep attacking and keep trying to make plays. His confidence hasn’t wavered one bit. Not one bit. So to see it go down and see the work that he’s been putting in, you applaud him for the effort he had tonight. He just stayed confident and he stayed aggressive from start to finish really.”

In addition, Young led the way statistically with 31 points and nine assists. Huerter and Collins each added 18 points, with Carter adding 14 points in reserve duty.

As a team, the Hawks produced at an impressive offensive clip, knocking down 19 of 40 three-point attempts and shooting 50 percent from the floor. Reddish, Huerter and Young combined to hit 15 three-pointers (!) and Atlanta’s starters scored 89 of the Hawks 121 points tonight. In short, it was truly an impressive effort from such a young group.

Atlanta will be back in action tomorrow as they search for their third straight win. Detroit will be visiting State Farm Arena as the Hawks begin a three-game home stand.

Stay tuned.